On The Radio Columns: July 2006 Archives

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, July 2, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

When you write a radio column in a major metropolitan area, you have occasions best described as a slow news week. This was not one of them. The most shocking news of all was the weekend programming change at newstalk WJR-AM (760), which saw popular personality and consumer watchdog Murray Gula leave the building. It’s not clear what actually lead to the changes — station staffer and program co-host John McCulloch had no comment — but it’s clear that the audience is not pleased with the decision. I’ve received a number of e-mails wanting to know why this happened. Advertisers, on the seemingly always-sold-out program, also have expressed their disappointment.

The listener response has been overwhelming in support of Gula, who had become a staple of helping people with home improvement problems throughout WJR’s massive coverage area. In late-breaking news, however, it looks as though Gula will remain as spokesperson for a number of his on-air supporters. He can be reached via his Web site, www.murraygula.com. Gula will continue to guest on Bob Allison’s show on multilingual WNZK-AM (690) at 10:30 a.m. Fridays. He also did a home improvement special on WXYZ-Channel 7. Insiders have indicated more involvement with the popular television station could be in the offing. Stay tuned.


 * * * * 


Another amazing “turn” of events is at all-news WWJ-AM (950). Some radio insiders felt they should install a revolving door at the entrance of the building. After an almost-unheard-of 25 years, all-night news man Brad Bianchi was let go in a move that has the Internet message boards buzzing. One local broadcaster said, “Do you realize how many morning guys in this town have listened to Brad on their way into work for years?” The answer is, a lot of them. WWJ management would not comment, but forgiveness is a hard commodity to come by these days in the radio biz. After so many years of service, one might have thought whatever it was, Bianchi should have been offered another chance. Plus, who can you even get to do overnight news for five hours and sound as professional as Brad? Reports say that former WXYT program director Rob Sanford will take over that shift.

Before we leave Detroit’s first radio station, we wanted you to know about yet another body spun through the revolving exit door on American Drive in Southfield — and that’s WWJ’s weekend news anchor and former “Auto-Beat” reporter Mike Campbell. I’ve said it before — radio has never been a bastion of stability, and that is true now more than ever.


 * * * * 


In the late ’80s, those of you who tuned to WCZY, better known as Z-95.5, would surely recognize the voice of Jim Ellis. Sadly, Jim died a week ago from a heart attack while visiting locally from his home up in Traverse City. He even drove himself to the hospital, but a second heart attack while “on the table” took his life shortly after his 48th birthday. Ellis also worked at WLLZ — now WVMV-FM (98.7) — and did the morning show after leaving Detroit at St. Louis’ legendary K-SHE 95. Up North, Ellis worked at rock powerhouse WKLT-FM (97.5 and 98.9), where he was teamed with current WJR newsman Pete Misiak. Former Z-95.5 jock Brian Patrick, now working under his real name Brian Peck, at pop WTMX-FM (101.9) in Chicago, flew in for the memorial service and remembered Ellis as a funny guy with a heart of gold.


 * * * * 


A local guy making it big nationally is WJR’s Paul W. Smith, who will be subbing for talk host and newsmaker Rush Limbaugh from noon to 3 p.m. Monday. Paul does a superb filling-in for El Rushbo.


 * * * * 


It’s often risky to publish letters from readers verbatim. In a rant from a reader in Rochester, it was alluded that WJR’s Rachel Nevada was “canned” from Mitch Albom’s show. Not true — the award-winning Nevada left on her own when Frank Beckmann got his own mid-morning show a couple of years ago.


 * * * * 


Tune in for great patriotic music with Tom Wilson on “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


Have a safe Independence Day — and may the best fireworks continue to be on the radio!


 * * * * 


Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, July 9, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

The composition of these words were started from my hospital bed at the Cleveland Clinic, perhaps one the most prestigious medical facilities in the world. As I sit here thinking of all the work that’s piling up, my type-A personality is making me even crazier than I usually am. My trip to Cleveland and Pittsburgh was rerouted to the hospital because of a return bout with a skin infection known as cellulitis; I never made it to the Steel City. Thank God for my Tivoli Song Book AM/FM radio and a top-floor room with a large window to my left that faces west. I’m pulling FM’s from Toledo and even from Detroit, but I think some of that might have been due to extraordinary atmospheric conditions. My XM radio also was a godsend.

I was discharged Monday after four days of care and drove home early on the Fourth of July with little to listen to on AM, FM or XM. All the funny shows were off the air. Even the “best of” repeats were missing. No entertainment, just lots of overplayed boring music. I never appreciated Warren Pierce so much as he filled in for Paul W. Smith; it was the only thing that kept me awake on newstalk WJR-AM (760).


 * * * * 


By the way, U of M fans can rejoice. CKLW-AM (800), although not what it once was, still throws a very strong signal across Lake Erie and the entire north coast of Ohio so you’ll still be able to hear the Wolverines. I even pulled in UM’s FM counterpart, classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3), at the Cleveland Clinic, but again, I think the air was a bit overcharged that weekend. Next to WJR, CKLW truly gets out the farthest, so it was an excellent choice by the Michigan Athletic Department.


 * * * * 


Last week, I also had an MRI on my left leg at one of the area’s finest medical facilities. They offer you headphones to counter the loud noise the machine makes and you can usually chose the station, but the radio — a Sony shelf-system stereo — had very poor FM reception. I checked it out, and wouldn’t you know it, the antenna was an AM loop stand-up connected to the FM input on the back. So I got a single strand of wire and connected it with far better results. The staff couldn’t have been more appreciative. The point is, to all radio broadcasters, it’s shocking how few people know how to even hook up an antenna to a radio, how to switch between bands or can recognize, by just the frequency, if 96.3 is an AM or an FM station. Yikes — that is very scary indeed. How are they ever going to figure out HD radio with two stations on the same frequency? I sense a train wreck coming.


 * * * * 


All-news WWJ-AM (950) is preparing a special tribute to funny weather guru Sonny Eliot as he celebrates 60 years on the local airwaves. Sonny created the concept of the wacky TV weatherman when he was on Channel 4, back in TV’s early days when the word Doppler was virtually unknown. More details coming.


 * * * * 


Also, this Tuesday is the birthday of WOMC’s Dick Purtan, holding steady at ... well, he says he’s 39. When your birthday is on 7-11, you’ve heard all of the jokes.


 * * * * 


Speaking of Slurpees, beef jerky and sandwiches, the winner of Motown radio’s “Super Sub” is undoubtedly Bernie Fratto. He’s the very reliable fill-in host on the “Parker & the Man” show at hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) Free FM. The “other Bernie,” who recently celebrated two years at Live 97.1, has developed quite a following with his quick wit and deep knowledge of sports, pop culture, history and current events. Plus, who can say no to an Italian sub?


 * * * * 


Today is the day for the soft hits WMGC-FM (105.1) Magic Family Picnic. It’s noon-5 p.m. at CJ Barrymore’s, 21750 Hall Road (M-59) in Clinton Township. Sounds like a super time. Check out www.detroitmagic.com for more details.


 * * * * 


Detroit’s “NICest guy,” Kevin O’Neill, the popular soft-rock WNIC-FM (100.3) afternoon personality, also was holding down the same shift at sister Clear Channel station WLIT in Chicago — by way of voice-tracking, which is a common practice in radio these days. They replaced O’Neill with a live local jock. So Kevin’s son in Chicago can no longer hear dad, but perhaps a Cleveland Clear Channel station will import his voice so mom can tune in along the North Coast.


 * * * * 


Speaking of Cleveland, after 12 different morning shows in nine years, heritage rocker WMMS-FM (100.7) recently added America’s funniest syndicated morning show — “Bob & Tom,” based in Indianapolis. You may have heard their outrageously entertaining program on stations throughout out-state Michigan, as it’s on in 150 cities nationwide but not in Detroit. With no disrespect to Drew and Mike, Harper, Purtan, Smith, Edmonds and all of the great local morning talent, I still wish we had these award-winning guys on the air locally. We can never have too many laughs.


 * * * * 


Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, July 16, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

The big “Remember the Motor City Reunion” is finally here — July 19-22 in downtown Detroit. Eileen Trombley-Glick, a former Detroiter and 1966 grad of Regina High School, is orchestrating this huge reunion for next week. She truly echoes that line from Martha and the Vandellas’ hit song “Dancin’ in the Street” — can’t forget the Motor City!

You’ll be amazed at the number of activities and the big names expected to be on hand for this nostalgic gathering throughout downtown Detroit. A few of the names scheduled to be here include: Robin Seymour, Lee Alan, Paul Cannon, Johnny Ginger, Marv Welch, Irv (Ricky the Clown) Roming, Art (Bozo) Cervi and Detroit historian Stewart McMillin.

As one who has worked on putting together three Detroit Radio Reunions, I know firsthand what a huge undertaking it is. And, that’s a good word to use, because it nearly killed me, and most of our committee.

You can learn more by visiting www.detroitmemories.com/reunion.html. If you don’t have Internet access, you can call for more information at (480) 785-4616 or toll-free at (866) 633-7737. If you can’t wait for the Woodward Dream Cruise on Aug. 19, this sounds like the perfect fix to please anyone who grew up in the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s in Southeast Michigan. There will certainly be a strong presence of legendary radio — and TV — personalities at this reunion.


 * * * * 


A couple of weeks ago, as I lay in a hospital bed in Ohio, I thought how good it would be if only I had brought my laptop computer. With a computer you can spend hours — if not days — checking out a seemingly endless number of Web sites that cater to those of us still in love with radio. One of my closest friends, now working for XM’s classic country channel 10, is Country Dan Dixon. He even worked locally at the old WDEE-AM (1500) and WCXI-AM (1130) now WDFN-AM. Dan tipped me off to a Web site that was a major flashback for those of us who as kids treasured our transistor radios. Check out www.transistor.org/collection/collection.html and you can spend hours clicking all over the pages of classic transistor radios — one of which is probably just like one you once owned.

If you like to wear radio station apparel, like I do, than the site for you is unquestionably www.radiologoland.com. It is incredible how many shirts, hats, coffee mugs and the like can be had with the original logo of your favorite station from yesteryear. Last Christmas, a radio pal in San Diego gave me a brand new high-quality sweatshirt with the first-ever logo for WKNR-Keener 13. Very cool, indeed.


Mike Austerman’s site, www.michiguide.com, features not only past postings of this column, but also an entire listing of Web links with ties to radio enthusiasts, including station histories and the meanings of call letters. And my site, www.vuolovideo.com, is being heavily referenced by people nationwide looking for audio and video recordings of great radio stations from around the country.

A couple of other sites that will thrill anyone with a passion for radio include: the Classic CKLW Page (www.thebig8.net), and the WKNR site (www.keener13.com). And there is a lot of Detroit radio memorabilia at www.detroitradioflashbacks.net, and to actually hear old radio broadcasts, including my 1971 “History of Detroit Radio” documentary, check out www.putmeontheair.com. Make sure you have a lot of time before you do.


 * * * * 


Quick Hits: Gregg Henson, the always colorful one time co-host of Motor City Middays on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) is not returning to Detroit. The former sports guru from both WXYT-AM (1270) and WDFN has landed a sweet job as program director of Philadelphia’s newest all-sports station WPEN-AM (950), owned by Greater Media, which also owns classic rocker WCSX-FM (94.7), where Henson had his first job many moons ago.

Set your dial for more of that great Wurlitzer organ music from Don Thompson on Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time” program at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


My colleague Mike Austerman who pens this column on alternate weekends, is on a well-deserved family vacation, and will return.


 * * * * 


Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, July 23, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


Looks like the country ratings battle between WYCD-FM (99.5) and WDTW-FM (106.7) will be an interesting one. In the just-released spring ratings book, WYCD tied for first place among all listeners with urban WJLB-FM (97.9). Although WDTW-FM The Fox was 18th, the station did improve its ratings from the winter with only a few weeks of its new sound included in the survey.

Talk about perfect timing for a format change. Give WDTW's Dom Theodore, regional vice president of programming, credit for calling for the change at 106.7 when he did. Country is hot, and there’s no doubt that listeners are sampling the new kid on the block, but will they remain loyal to WYCD?

Sports WXYT-AM (1270) enjoyed good ratings news, as they pushed back ahead of rival WDFN-AM (1130) for their second quarterly win in the last three books. The Detroit Tigers’ success on the field has helped boost listenership of WXYT’s coverage of the team. But the question with WXYT is whether the move away from sports in morning drive — with shock jocks Opie & Anthony in its place — will affect the station’s ratings this fall.

Rock WRIF-FM (101.1) and adult urban WDMK-FM (105.9) also enjoyed nice audience gains since winter among all listeners. The ’Rif moved to fourth place overall with a .7 share increase behind another number one book from morning duo Drew & Mike. WDMK bumped up .8 and finished in 10th place. Also of note was news-talk WJR-AM (760) pushing back ahead of all-news WWJ-AM (950).

The adage that change is the only constant is especially true when looking at radio ratings considering that the top eight stations among listeners age 12+ are only separated by .6 of a share.


 * * * * 


Back at WDTW-FM, the station has been building its on-air staff. Ericka Lynn will join for middays starting Aug. 2, and Rob Gramm is already on the job doing evenings. That leaves the morning and afternoon drive open, along with overnights.

With the combination of WDTW-owner Clear Channel launching a new syndicated morning program featuring Whoopi Goldberg on July 31 and that open morning slot, I have to wonder whether there might be some shuffling done within Clear Channel/Detroit to get Whoopi on a station here. One possible scenario could be to move either Chris Edmonds or Kevin O’Neill from soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) over to 106.7 for mornings. Both guys are longtime Detroiters and outstanding jocks. If a decision is made to add Whoopi in Detroit, why not fully utilize the talent that is already in-house to fill mornings at The Fox? Stay tuned to this one.


 * * * * 


Major kudos to WDFN afternoon hosts Mike Stone and Bob Wojnowski — you know them as Stoney & Wojo — for helping raise more than $155,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently. Hard to believe that these guys have been doing their 28-hour radiothon for nine years — and that this is the first one without former ’DFN personality Sabrina Black, who succumbed to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March.

The event was a who’s who of Detroit sports personalities, including retired Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman, who donated an autographed pair of gloves that he wore during his last playoff game. Donations are still being accepted at wdfn.radiothon.org.


 * * * * 


Last month I asked whether Detroit radio personalities — and specifically WJR’s Mitch Albom — violate the trust of listeners when they endorse products that aren’t American made or whether it’s just a sign of the times.

The majority of the responses reflected that listeners weren’t concerned about what hosts endorse; rather, it’s that they personally “endorse” anything at all.

Joan’s comment summed up well the bulk of what I received: “I turn Mitch off before he comes on due to his violation of trust in many areas — self-serving endorsements of people and agendas as well as products make his word mean nothing. He used to be a great sports writer, but moving into the arena of ideas has been too big a leap for him. Can we vote him off the air?”

That’s harsh, but having hosts live-read commercials seems like a dangerous proposition. While stations get the most money for those kind of advertisements, they risk alienating listeners by airing too many of those ads. And, naturally, fewer listeners means less ad revenue. I don’t envy the sales managers who have to make those decisions — it’s not an easy job.


 * * * * 


Heal-up-soon wishes to classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3) afternoon host Tom Ryan, who had double knee replacement surgery and will be off the air for approximately three weeks while he recovers. Ron Tavernit has been filling in ... Thoughts and prayers are with former talk WKRK-FM (97.1) host Gregg Henson as he deals with the illness of his mother, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: “Somewhere in Time” hosts Tom Wilson and Heather Novak explore the magic of theater pipe organs featuring West Coast organist Don Thompson with a program that includes everything from classics to pops.


 * * * * 


Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, July 30, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

Eileen Trombley-Glick was encouraged by hundreds of positive responses to have a great Detroit Reunion, but after a year’s worth of preparations, the event fell short of its attendance goal. Unlike the three Detroit Radio Reunions since 1988, this one was to be open to the public. The shortfall wasn’t for lack of effort on Eileen’s part. She contacted all the major local media, but found a lack of cooperation. Along with local marketing maven Mike Seltzer, who worked with us on all three radio reunions, I attended the Detroit Memories breakfast July 21 at the Roostertail. The room should have been packed. Fewer than 100 were on hand. Most heard about it from this paper or the Internet.

Mike and I realized later that this may have been the last time we’ll see the likes of Johnny Ginger, Marv Welch, Ricky the Clown, Art (Bozo) Cervi and Robin Seymour reminiscing about the great times in the Motor City. Our hats are off to Eileen for an outstanding effort. In fact, Seltzer said it best: “The local Detroit media should be ashamed of themselves for providing no coverage of this event, and it exemplifies the apathy that is apparent here. Detroit was once a thriving, vibrant and exciting city, and thank goodness we have our great memories of those glory days because they are, unfortunately, as Ernie Harwell might say, ‘long gone.’”


 * * * * 


Paul W. Smith, morning host on news/talk WJR-AM (760), deserves major kudos last week as he reunited a Dearborn family in war-torn Tyre, Lebanon, via ABC newsman Matt Gutmann. This was live radio drama unlike anything I’ve ever heard, as an emotional Smith relished in his ability through a series of coincidences, good luck and his years of radio experience to reconnect a registered nurse at Detroit Children’s Hospital with his wife and daughter.

When asked what the mother and daughter would do when they returned home, they said they want pizza. And Paul immediately heard from Little Caesars CEO Chris Illitch, who will provide the family with all the pizza they want. Rather than trying to recount all that transpired on the air, go to www.wjr.com and you can actually hear Tuesday’s gripping 18 minutes of audio.


 * * * * 


One can only wonder what type of chemicals may have leaked into the air ducts in the Clear Channel building in Farmington Hills. Talk WDTW-AM (1310) took the call-letters of Ann Arbor Country W4 and is now WWWW-AM, but the format is unchanged. Yet, new country The Fox remains WDTW-FM (106.7). Strange.


 * * * * 


After Glenn Haege’s “Ask the Handyman” program today, he’s reportedly being shown the door. America’s Master Handyman did not have his contract renewed at sports WDFN-AM (1130). His program is nationally syndicated to more than 200 stations nationwide.

Could he be headed for the Fisher Building? Is Glenn out to replace recently ousted Murray Gula? Well, it turns out that Gula’s sizeable roster of big-name advertisers is sticking with him. This type of loyalty is rarely seen in broadcasting these days. Perhaps WJR brass should reconsider the “Murraygo-round” as advertising revenues followed the big guy out the door.

On the flip side of the home improvement coin, Gula has signed a contract with WXYZ-Channel 7 for several one-hour “watch dog” specials. He will be actively involved with Murray’s Blog and providing tips via the popular Channel 7 Web site (www.wxyz.com).


 * * * * 


Set your dials: Big Band lovers can check out the music of Benny Goodman on Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from July 2006.

On The Radio Columns: June 2006 is the previous archive.

On The Radio Columns: August 2006 is the next archive.

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